First, take a deep breath and relax, advises Steve Wilson, a senior photographer at Hallmark. Accept that getting a great photo may take some time and, most likely, some serenity mantras. As a general rule, Steve suggests taking at least twice as many photos as there are people in your photo.
- Where to shoot
You can’t beat the outdoors for backdrops. Steve likes to shoot in open shade, such as the shade of a tree. It provides flattering light on people without making them stare into the sun or squint. Indoors he says to keep it simple. To avoid a lineup against a wall, shoot the group in the middle of the room to create depth. Find a backdrop view that isn’t too busy and doesn’t detract from the focus of your portrait—the people.
- Camera setting and timer
Most cameras have an auto and manual setting. You don’t have to be a professional to use the manual setting. For a picture of a family of 12, for example, use a tripod, set the camera to manual mode, set the lens to f5.6 or f8, adjust the shutter setting, and test until you get a pleasing result. That puts the people in focus and everything around the people a little out of focus. Set the lens to f4 for individuals. For couples, do the same, but get in close. If you are using a self-timer, set the timer for 10 seconds so that everyone is not waiting forever for it to go off. If you don’t have a self-timer, consider getting a wireless remote so you can shoot pictures whenever you’re ready.
- Arranging the people
Rather than lining up people, Steve suggests “clumping” them casually. He likes to put the oldest generation in the middle and work outwards from there. He urges people to sit on the arms of chairs, hug each other and overlap as much as possible. This creates a more casual, natural-looking photo. To break the ice, Steve suggests being a little goofy for a while to make everyone more comfortable. Let the photo shoot go on long enough for people to relax.
- What to wear
Keep the clothing simple as well. Solid colors and subtle patterns are better than bold patterns. He tells people to avoid white. He says he also gets better photos when people are comfortable in what they are wearing. Need more ideas? Try these tips for stylish, stress-free family photos from our friends at Think. Make. Share.